ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, April 14, 2014

The more-or-less random guide to beer and music pairing

While the rest of you were lazily completing the London Marathon yesterday, I was crossing a far more important finishing line, with a pint of Conwy Surfin' IPA.

Yep, it's the end of another round of Spoons Bingo, and having ticked off the 50 beers on the Wetherlist I can go back to mostly drinking in normal pubs. Yay!

...and that's 50 out of 50!
It has to be said that I wasn't hugely impressed with the ales this time around and there were one or two really strange flavours in the mix. Mauldon's 'Lemon Adder' tasted like cold lemon tea, while I detected more than a hint of instant gravy granules in Nethergate 'Hell Hound'!

And even more bizzarely, Bateman's 'Springtime Oatmeal Biscuit' reminded me of tempura prawns. No, really.

Or maybe there was just something up with my tastebuds that night?

Anyway, while sitting in the Crosse Keys in the City the other evening, working my way through many of these strange beers and listening to 'sum choonz', I suddenly came up with a brilliant idea.

Or, at least, a brilliant-after-eight-pints-of-strangely-flavoured-biannual-festival-ales idea.

Beer and music pairing.

I mean, how fucking cool is that?

OK, I'm sure it's been written about before. But not by me. And that's what mattered at the time.

Some of it is pretty obvious. Like, if you're drinking a cool, hoppy, American Pale Ale, you really ought to be listening to a classic rock station where 'Sweet Home Alabama' and 'Summer of 69' are playlisted to come on at least every couple of hours.

(There should also probably be an incessant advert for a car lot 'with rock-bottom prices, just off interstate 65'.)

On the other hand, your typical English pub rock (think 'Chas and Dave') probably requires a watery bitter with malt dominant, or perhaps a bottle of Brown Ale.

And if you're sipping a strong, complex Barley Wine late at night, you might want to be chilling with some early polyphony, or maybe even Gregorian chant; the clarity of voice and rhythmic simplicity concentrates the mind and is an ideal foil to deeply complex beer.

The Fittingness of Random

But let's take this to the next level.

I own close to 1000 albums, and thanks to the wonders of modern digital technology, I walk around with about two thirds of them in my pocket.

So, if we put the 9000-odd tracks on shuffle, and tried to match beers to the first ten that came out... that sounds like a beery recipe for musical mayhem, right?

While, like anybody, I have my preferred genres, I like to think that my tastes are about as catholic as anybodies, and consequently there is quite a wide range of shit here in this completely random selection. It also proved a bit more challenging than I thought it might be in the pub, so I kept the list of 10 and spent a couple of days thinking about it before putting finger to keyboard.

1. 'Stereotype' - the Specials, from the album 'More Specials'

Ooh, what an interesting one to come up first.

As this song is essentially about a young chap who 'drinks his age in pints'
(something which at my age is impossible, obviously) the beer has to be weak, and given that the song was a No. 6 hit in 1980, the obvious candidate is a rubbish 80s lager like Hoffmeister. Follow the bear. If you must.

The Cov-based skamongers reveal at the end of the song that the protaganist 'doesn't really exist'. And, fortunately, neither does Hoffmeister these days.

2. 'Lovely Joan' - Martin Carthy, from the album 'Martin Carthy'

One of the kings of British folk, Carthy's debut album came out as long ago as 1965, would you believe.

Obviously you need to be drinking a gentle English bitter with this, and ideally one that's been unchanged for many years. A pint of Adnams Bitter for starters.

3. 'Twentieth Century Fox' - The Doors, from the album 'The Doors'

The Doors' 1967 debut album includes many better-known songs than this, but the trademark sound of skiffly drums, syncopated Hammond organ and the echoey vocals of Jim Morrison seems to call out for a modern American craft beer, probably a red or amber ale.

I'll stick with the West Coast, and choose Ballast Point 'Calico Amber', though anything in a similar vein would be appropriate.

4. 'Slide away' - Oasis, from the album 'Definitely Maybe'

In some ways, the current 'craft revolution' is similar to the whole Britpop thing in the 1990s. Lots of people are getting into it, and there's a certain feeling of rebelliousness and innovation on the surface - yet scratch beneath the pastry crust and there's a filling of similarity and derivation.

One of the heavier (and, ironically, weaker) tracks from the first Oasis record, it probably calls for a cold bottle of lager - one of the modern craft ones, obviously, but perhaps you couldn't be sure without looking at the label?

While you drink your Camden 'Hells', keep a look out for the ghosts of Oasis fans from the 90s. There's probably still a few lingering on around Camden lock...

5. 'Past the Mission' - Tori Amos, from the album 'Under the Pink'

There was a time when Tori Amos was pretty much a goddess as far as I was concerned. Roughly the time that this was a No. 31 hit, in fact.

The one thing I didn't particularly like about this this track, however, was the backing vocals by the guy from Nine Inch Nails (surely singing quietly in unison with the main artist defeats the purpose?!?) so we'll drink a collaboration beer that doesn't quite deliver as much as one might expect.

Back once again...
In fact, we'll have the Fuller's/Hardknott 'Brit Hop' from the recent Spoons fest. You can probably still catch it if you're quick.

6. 'Renegade Master (New blood Mix)' - Wildchild

I went through a phase of buying CD singles in the mid-1990s - it's what people did back then, dude - and a few of them found their way into a ripping session from time to time.

It must be nearly 20 years ago that I used to dance to the repetitive strains of this pumping track in South London's 'premier nightspots', probably drinking Guinness or JD'n'Coke.

So, fuck it, we'll have Thornbridge 'St Petersburg stout (Bourbon-aged)'. Might as well do things properly now we're older, eh?

7. 'Stake your Claim' - Monty Python, from the album 'Another Monty Python Record'

I should've known something like this would happen. A sketch from a comedy album, and a fairly amusing one too, with Cleese, Palin and Chapman on good form. Released in 1971, right after the second TV series, this was way ahead of its time. (Though I hesitate to use to the word 'zany' because only twats use the word 'zany').

You'll want a fairly outrageous beer to go with a claim to burrow through an elephant, so take a sip of whatever beer purports to be the strongest in the world right now. Currently I think that's still Brewmeister 'Snake Venom'.

8. 'Winter: first movement', from the album 'Haydn - Die Jahreszeiten'

Gotta admit I hardly know this work at all, but we'll go for the Dunkel Weissbier from Alpine brewery Edelweiss. Dark. Seasonal. Austrian. Seems to fit.

9. 'Ups and Downs (live)' - Steeleye Span, from the album 'The Journey'

Fair enough. I knew that with 39 different Spanners albums on my player, the chances were that at least one track would come up.

This live version is nowhere near as good as the original, but if you're listening to a jaunty tale about a young lady losing her Aylesbury on the way to Maidenhead (or vice versa), you might be better off with a pint of dry, cloudy cider.

If we do decide to stick with beer, it's got to be a refreshing golden ale to quench our thirst after all that travelling, mandolin playing and reputation-besmirching, so let's go with Vale Pale Ale - at least a quart thereof, I should think.

10. 'Down to the Waterline' - Dire Straits, from the album 'Dire Straits'

A lot of tracks on debut albums cropped up in this little list, and we finish with another one. Opening track on the album too, so it's about as early Sparse guitar solo leading into a pleasing jam.

It's all jetties and quaysides and stuff, so we'll all finish with a Whitstable 'Oyster Stout', and party like it's 1978. When, of course, Whitstable Oyster Stout wasn't available, but Hoffmeister was.

I've already got the playlist, so maybe one day I'll actually try to line up all of these beers in front of me at the same time. Anybody got an old can of the Hoff lying about at the back of their sideboard?

1 comment:

  1. Some fun stuff in here - but there is no reason in the the world, to EVER play "Summer of '69".




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